Black History and Futures month is more than just a month; for many, it’s a time for introspection and engaging in critical dialogue.
Understanding Black history as a foundational element of Canadian history is an important facet of the month, according to Jermaine Marshall, inclusion and anti-racism advisor at the Human Rights and Equity Office (HREO).
“Every year we try to have a big opening ceremony with a lot of different components involving Black affinity groups from Kingston high schools and partners including the City of Kingston and the local Black community,” Marshall said in an interview with The Journal.
Live poetry was performed by Abena Beloved Green, seeking to engage folks in a meaningful, thoughtful, and celebratory start to the month.
“In a day and age where people think everything is settled and figured out, a number of industries have racial biases, from the medical industry to corporate Canada, and even schooling and education,” Marshall said.
“We’re at this place where folks are talking so much about diversity, equity, and inclusion. What does that actually look like in practice with tangible goals?”
Having direction and developing ways to maintain accountability through metrics are essential in any equity work, especially after starting conversations around marginalization, according to Marshall.
“What does remedying or addressing and creating a period of healing and reckoning with the past look like as a collective? Mutual thriving is mutually beneficial,” Marshall said.
Ensuring non-Black people attend Black History and Futures month programming is essential to building safer and less harmful communities, Marshall said.
Simply re-posting a graphic or helping advertise the location and times of events isn’t enough, according to Marshall. One actively needs to attend events to do the work of confronting one’s own biases.
“Unless you know, the event explicitly says it’s for the Black community only, which only some will say. A lot of them are open to the public, welcoming you to engage with the people you live with, and go to school with,” Marshall said.
“I know that sometimes folks can get very defensive because they feel as though they’re being singled out. These are healing spaces, these are the spaces of accountability—cultural accountability—where if you find yourself resistant to engaging in these spaces, maybe use this time to interrogate why that is.”
At the end of the day, many events are being held across campus and in Kingston for the community. Marshall said accessing these events is possible through the events calendar.
“I think it’s a concentrated moment, to think and reflect and challenge ourselves to do better. I think one of the things is that life can become so busy. One of the things this month allows for us is to say ‘hey, remember, [Black History and Futures Month] is important.’”
black history month, future, History, HREO, Kingston
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